QPR 2 Doncaster Rovers 1
By Ben Kosky EVEN before Rangers successfully negotiated a badly-needed first win of 2010, you could sense how the cloud had been lifted. For the first time in months, the QPR players looked noticeably free of tension and fear, the crowd backed them whole
By Ben Kosky
EVEN before Rangers successfully negotiated a badly-needed first win of 2010, you could sense how the cloud had been lifted.
For the first time in months, the QPR players looked noticeably free of tension and fear, the crowd backed them wholeheartedly - and the end result was three deserved points. Simple.
Not so long ago, you wouldn't have bet against a serious pitch invasion - but the only unauthorised intrusion came from a lone spectator wearing just red briefs and contributing to a lighter-hearted mood suddenly emerging at Loftus Road.
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"We've got our Rangers back" sang the exuberant home crowd - and, indeed, with a homegrown teenage striker scoring on his first start for the senior side, it had already begun to feel that way.
Antonio German was arguably the star of the show, displaying enthusiasm, deft touches and - aside from one occasion when he was slow to anticipate Akos Buzsaky's through ball - a good positional sense.
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Buzsaky, too, performed with a renewed spring in his step and he screwed the first opportunity of the game over the bar, but atoned by setting up the opening goal for German on 24 minutes.
Alejandro Faurlin and Lee Cook combined to set Buzsaky free on the left and his cross found Jay Simpson, whose header was parried by Neil Sullivan, but German pounced to stab the ball over the line.
At the other end, though, the Rs' defence were frequently caught out by the quality of Doncaster's passing, and they were fortunate that Rovers' top scorer Billy Sharp seemed unable to beat the linesman's flag.
Brian Stock skied a chance after John Oster had teed him up, but QPR almost doubled their advantage just before half-time as Cook's corner reached the head of Kaspars Gorkss, only to be blocked on the line.
The home side picked up where they left off after the restart as Faurlin rattled a low drive just past the post and German's header, from another Cook corner, flew over.
But Rovers grabbed an equaliser against the run of play as Sharp manoeuvred his way around Damion Stewart and cut the ball back for James Hayter, arriving late to drill past Carl Ikeme.
A string of offside flags frustrated both teams' attempts to take the lead, with German's header correctly disallowed and Sharp thwarted yet again - but it was Rangers who finally grabbed the decisive goal 14 minutes from time.
Buzsaky was the architect again, clipping an excellent ball over the top to find Simpson, who controlled it and lashed his 12th goal of the campaign beyond the helpless Sullivan.
There were a few panicky moments for Mick Harford's side as Stock speared another opportunity into the stand and James Chambers' punt sailed wide in the fifth minute of added time.
It didn't matter, though. This wasn't the most impressive result or performance of Rangers' topsy-turvy season - but it may well have been the most important.